5keys belong ARTICLE Help children belong #02 Connectedness and communication

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Connectedness & communication

Informal and formal ways of connecting with children is a building block of belonging.

How we greet, speak and listen to one another helps us to connect and to sense whether or not we belong. It’s not just about the initial vitally important welcome we receive. It is also the ongoing welcome and effective, respectful communication that keeps us sensing we belong.

ARTICLE: Series: Help children belong #02

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The possibility of belonging is measured in the first instance by the welcome we receive. If we are generally ignored or talked at in a patronising way we quickly pick up that we are not welcome. This will significantly undermine any other factor that might foster belonging.

There is a social theory that has been around for a while now that suggests if we are not active or actively helped to connect with at least five others in a significant way there is a decreasing sense of the need to attend the group. This quantifies the idea that if a child turns up to a place and their isn’t anyone who knows or cares about her then she will have a decreasing desire to turn up or to sense she belongs. This idea of connecting with children is a foundational part of growing the sense of belonging. As such, is important enough in its own right to be a key to children and families ministry. See references below.

Effective communication

Effective, positive and respectful communication on all levels shows a care and concern for each individual and will help foster belonging. Directing some of out attention to children in order to keep them informed will help. Explaining things, putting things on age appropriate posters, introducing new concepts or guidelines carefully, helping children make some of those announcements, making sure children are invited, welcomed and catered for at various events, using age-appropriate and safe social media methods to contact and inform them all combine to underline this aspect of connecting through communication.

Friendship is also important.

Friendships spring from a place much deeper than any level or connectedness or form of communication. Friendships will grow sometimes in spite of poor connections and communication. Understanding how friendship works will be the subject of another factor of belonging but is raised here. For a child, friendships with others from a variety of different generations will benefit her in a variety of ways and can only be helped with a deepen abilities and capacities to connect and communicate with others.

A few things are worth noting here.

Firstly, systems in place for connecting with children need to work for all children, not just the minister’s or worship leader’s children. This is difficult to assess unless we first recruit the help of a parent or significant person in each child’s life. After establishing the importance of healthy connections helping to foster a sense of belonging, here are a few questions for a parent to ask a child.
[ul style=”5″] [li]Who do you like to see and talk to when you go to church? Who else? Who else? Who else?[/li] [li]What do you talk to each person about? What do you ask each person?[/li] [li]Who likes to talk to you even though you are not so interested to talk to them?[/li] [li]Hypothetically, if we had a lunch together, who would you invite … all ages, young or old? (Suggestion: Do it!)[/li] [/ul] [spacer height=”10″ mobile_hide=”true”]

All too often this review isn’t undertaken. We assume an informal approach to connecting in with children is working. We see kids running around having a sense of fun and eating the biscuits and we might assume they are connecting in with their peer group and others for the long haul of relationships in community. We are more often than not wrong in this assumption.

Often our faith education system is more about just teaching the Bible story of ‘loving your neighbour as yourself’ than its application. One application of this for faith formation is about the training and practice of listening to and praying for each other. Imagine if this was ensured, by what ever means, in each child by the age of 11 and not just with peers, but in safe and appropriate contexts with others regardless of age. There would be a lot less drop out if this was part of our curriculum for children.This level of connection doesn’t just happen while kids are running around eating biscuits as important as a sense of ‘fun’ is for children.

[blockQuote position=”center”]On balance, too much running around and not enough intergenerational connection.[/blockQuote]

This raises the idea of connectedness and communication with God as well.

Time spent with God, allowing space for that time with God both in the home and as part of our worship celebrations hold a sense of importance. How we encourage children to do this on their own and as part of a gathering of people takes us beyond just faith education. This is the modeling we do together. This is the work of helping to form faith with the children in our midst. This topic is explored elsewhere at midst.com.au

Then there are the nonverbal and indirect ways of communicating. We model relationships. We model the way we encourage and the way we communicate that encouragement.

We model the way we show respect and the way we communicate respect. We model the way we disagree and the way we communicate that disagreement. And so on. When children are present in our midst we will model connections and communications in ways that will help them to grow healthy connections and communications in our present into all our futures. Hopefully. As we do, we will foster a sense of loving connectedness, a significant building block of a sense of belonging.

[phildup55/Phillip Day © midst.com.au This article is FreeShare.
Part or all of the text may be used provided it is not for profit
and provided it carries this complete, square-bracketed tag.] [hr toptext=”Last updated: 03/09/2014 … pd” size=”tiny” custom_size=”” hide_mobile_hr=”true”] [image url=”http://midst.com.au/wp-content/uploads/think10.png” title=”Reflection” alt=”http://midst.com.au/” raw=”true” alignment=”left” margin_left=”0″ margin_right=”10″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”-4″ width=”36″ height=”36″]

For reflection

What have you seen or heard of or experienced that relates to this?

• Count the number of significant relationships that connect you in with your faith community or other important group? How did that happen? What help did you receive? What initiatives did you take? What worked?
• How could these principles provide insight in order to help children to grow deeper connections and thus foster a greater sense of belonging?
• Begin to work out a MAP out a Mission Action Plan to change just one small thing to help.
• Does this article help you to consider a child’s sense of belonging? What is a practical next step for you in this regard?
[spacer height=”20″ mobile_hide=”true”][image url=”http://midst.com.au/wp-content/uploads/reference10.png” title=”Reference” alt=”http://midst.com.au/” raw=”true” alignment=”left” margin_left=”0″ margin_right=”10″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”18″ width=”36″ height=”36″]

Reference

We gratefully acknowledge the following sources.

http://midst.com.au/5keys/connect/
[spacer height=”20″ mobile_hide=”true”][image url=”http://midst.com.au/wp-content/uploads/notes10.png” title=”Notes” alt=”Midst” raw=”true” alignment=”left” margin_left=”0″ margin_right=”10″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”-4″ width=”36″ height=”36″]

Notes

• Author: phildup55 • Date: 03/09/2014

• Personal pronouns used as required in this article: she/her

Copyright/FreeShare
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